Tuesday, November 19, 2019
BTRTN: Republican Impeachment Defense Release 13.0... “Who Cares, The Senate is Not Going to Convict, so Screw You, Democrats.”
With each new day, each new witness, and each new loony rationale for seeing no evil, the true Republican defense strategy is becoming clear. Steve urges the Democrats to call it for what it is and do something about it. Now.
I just went on Amazon and found out that there has been another delay in Release 13.0, the new, latest, most up-to-date Republican impeachment defense strategy. Apparently the Republicans are going to wait until E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testifies, so that they can once again tweak, modify, or completely change their line of defense to adjust to new revelations from his testimony.
I am really eager to get the latest release, because they say it will correct a bunch of those buggy patches that made Lindsay Graham appear more twisted than a DNA chromosome. For those of you who are not on the group chat for the software de-bugger, here’s a quick recap of the releases to date:
Release One: “It was a perfect phone call.”
Release Two: “It was not only a perfect phone call, there was no quid pro quo!”
Release Three: “We can’t believe that the Democrats are doing all this in private, denying the President his rights of due process!”
Release Four: “Ok, there was a quid pro quo, but it was still a perfect phone call because the quid pro quo was about corruption in the Ukraine in general… not specifically about the Bidens.”
Release Five (also known as “The Mulvaney Massacre”): “Get over it. Of course there was a quid pro quo, and of course it was about the Bidens. You naïve, sniveling journalists should know that we do that kind of stuff all the time. There will always be politics in diplomacy.”
Release Six was the abrupt and immediate withdrawal of Release Five from the market.
Release Seven: “We can’t believe that the Democrats are doing this all in public, and it is obviously a charade by deep state actors bent on a coup to reverse the 2016 election!”
Release Eight: “None of the deep state bureaucrats who are testifying have first hand knowledge of the events. It is all hearsay.” (This release was somewhat mysteriously accompanied by an additional software patch that simultaneously argued that “of course we cannot allow any of the first hand witnesses to testify, because the president is correct to assert that no one in the executive branch is obligated to obey a Congressional subpoena.”)
Release Nine (also known as the “Lindsey Hops”): “I am not even going to read the depositions and I am not going to even watch the public testimony because it is all so, uh, un-American. Furthermore, it is impossible to bring this case forward fairly without us knowing who the whistleblower is and having a chance to cross-examine about any biases. If the Democrats don’t call the whistleblower to testify in public in the House, this thing is dead on arrival in the Senate. In short, if the Democrats don’t do the one thing that I am certain they won’t do – expose the whistleblower – then the whole inquiry is invalid.”
Release Ten (also known as the “Nikki Haley Mary”): “Ok, ok, ok… there was a quid pro quo, and it was about the Bidens, but the funds were ultimately released and Ukraine did not do an investigation, so how can you say that there is any problem? You know... no actual fully executing criminal act of extortion, no foul.”
Release Eleven: “Ok, ok, ok,…. There was a quid pro quo, and it was about Joe Biden, and who cares how many deep state never-Trump bureaucrats testify about it, but it only happened that one little time on one little phone call, and it’s not a big deal, like, uh, it’s certainly not worthy of impeachment.”
Release Twelve: “Uh, ok, ok, ok, ok! Maybe it wasn’t just that one little time, but that there actually was an alternative shadow diplomatic channel that applied constant pressure on the new Ukraine leadership over a four month period during which it was made crystal clear that U.S. military aid would not be released until the Ukraine President Zelensky made a public statement that his government was investigating both the Bidens and the discredited conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that meddled in the 2016 Presidential election. So what? What’s your point?”
Now you know why I am so excited! I think that in Release Thirteen, we are finally going to get to the bottom of the Republican Impeachment defense. The internet is just glowing with rumors that it reads like this:
Release Thirteen: “Um, uh, how’s this, Democrats? The reason that Donald Trump should not be impeached is, uh, go screw yourselves! Yes, you heard right. Go screw yourselves! The Senate is never going to convict, the base doesn’t give a crap, Fox News says whatever we tell them to, so, um, you can just stuff it. Therefore, we Senate Republicans hereby declare that nothing Donald Trump has done, is doing, or will ever do is impeachable. We can vote right now. We have enough votes to acquit Trump, and we have already made up our minds, no matter what evidence might emerge.”
Well, there you have it! That’s it, folks! We have finally arrived at the complex legal reasoning that forms the strategy behind the Republican impeachment defense. As long as the Republicans believe that the Senators will generally vote along party lines in a Senate trial, they can make up a new story every day for why Trump should not be impeached. They don’t have to be consistent, they don’t have to have a line in the sand, and no matter how much smoke is pouring out of the barrel of a gun, the Republicans have already determined the outcome.
What’s really interesting about this defense is that it actually works in a stunning array of contexts. Do you think that the Mueller Report found grounds for impeachment on obstruction of justice? Release 13.0 full addresses the legal nuances of your argument! Think Trump committed witness tampering by tweeting about former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her testimony? I think Release 13.0 pretty much squashes that argument like a bug!
Abuse of Presidential power? Bribery? Extortion? Do any of those crimes really have a chance against Republican Release 13.0?
I don’t think so.
Not if the Democrats don’t start learning how to play hardball.
Dems, there is one war going on in the House Impeachment Inquiry, and Adam Schiff is doing a great job leading that. Good for Schiff for playing it straight and narrow. He is a principled man, and he is savvy enough to know that he must run hearings that are not only measured and fair, but are perceived to be measured and fair. He is doing his job.
But there is a second front in this war, and it is being played out in the court of public opinion, and it is here that the Democrats need to step up their game. Dramatically.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is only one thing that will make Republicans in the Senate even begin to contemplate voting for the impeachment of Donald Trump. And that is that if they see public opinion begin to shift in significant measure. If Republicans feel that public opinion – and Congressional seats – will be at increased risk by supporting the acquittal of the President, they will have to think twice.
So the court of public opinion is actually even more important than what is happening inside Congress.
Republicans generally do a much better job of focusing pro-actively on shaping public opinion. Democrats tend to think that once the truth and the facts get out, the public will see the light. It is a terribly naïve perspective. Republicans take no chances. They aggressively tell their party faithful exactly what to believe before, during, and after the emergence of facts. If the facts don't align with the narrative, they don't change the narrative, they ignore, distort, or change the "facts," often simply manufacturing "alternative" ones. They pre-package a full story and sell it as settled law. Ask William Barr how it works: “The Mueller Report says that there was no collusion and no obstruction. Case closed.”
The Democrats need to start aggressively communicating their narrative of the Ukraine narrative, and – more specifically – the Senate trial itself, and they must have a strategy for reaching a mass audience.
We can all already see where this is going. The Republicans are going to do, say, and claim anything to justify a vote for acquittal. Democrats need to get out ahead of this story, trace it to the obvious and logical end point of its trajectory, and start litigating that outcome now.
Democrats must begin making the argument today about where we will be two months from now in a Senate trial. Democrats must point out today what Republicans intend to do, and vehemently begin to attack those positions now.
There are three keys to this.
Democrats must immediately begin aggressively challenging the Republican contention that Trump’s actions do not constitute an impeachable offense. We already can surmise that many Senate Republicans will try to thread a needle in which they acknowledge some wrongdoing by Trump, but justify a vote to acquit by saying that the wrongdoing “does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
When articles of impeachment are drafted, Donald Trump will stand accused of spending months orchestrating an intense campaign to put the screws on a vulnerable, newly elected leader of a small, vulnerable foreign country by withholding vital, tax-payer funding of military aid with the absolutely clear intent on manufacturing manure with which to smear his chief political rival.
In fact, this is a far more brutal abuse of power than the Watergate affair that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency, for these reasons:
Nixon attempted to influence the outcome of the 1972 election by using political campaign funds to pay domestic political operatives to commit and cover up the theft of campaign information on his political opponent.
Trump attempted to influence the outcome of the 2020 election by using U.S. taxpayer money, in the form of vital military aid, to blackmail a foreign government, forcing it to manufacture dirt on a political rival.
By these measure, Trump’s transgressions are every bit, and by any reasonable reckoning, more of a violation of his oath of office than Nixon’s. Nixon resigned because he was told that his Republican support in the Senate had evaporated… that he was certain to be impeached. It was an open and shut case… and so is Trump’s.
Indeed, as Schiff framed the question: if this is not an impeachable offense, what indeed is? Democrats should pick up this mantra and use every opportunity to demand that their Republican colleagues define a scenario that they would view as impeachable… and then measure Trump’s proven actions against that standard.
Democrats must do a far better job of branding Republican hypocrisy: “Would you vote to impeach if Barack Obama had done what Donald Trump has done?” It is surprising to me that the Democrats have not been vastly more aggressive in invoking the most obvious measure of Republican hypocrisy: if Barack Obama had done any of the acts of obstruction of justice cited in the Mueller Report, of any of the actions that have been already conceded as fact in the Ukraine scandal, Republicans would have wasted not a moment to launch an impeachment. Democrats must become far more assertive, far more repetitive, and far more outraged in pointing out the hypocrisy of the Republicans who are now defending Donald Trump.
Literally, Democrats must force the issue: if the names were changed in the transcript of the Zelensky phone call, and Barack Obama were the President and Donald Trump was the political opponent, would Republicans have given Obama a free pass?
If Barack Obama held up a military appropriation approved by Congress to aid an ally in order to force that ally to produce dirt on Donald Trump, it is unfathomable that any Republican would have really said, “Oh, that’s just Obama being Obama. No big deal. Let it go!”
Frankly, this may well be the best way to frame the fact that the Senate Republicans are acting wholly as partisans. How, indeed, would they have reacted if the political parties in this drama were precisely reversed?
Democrats must lay the groundwork now for demanding that Republican Senators do their job as honest jurors. Of all of the flawed “software releases” that we’ve been hearing from Republicans, the one that bugs me the most is Lindsey Graham, who has openly dismissed the impeachment inquiry and stated that he will not listen to testimony or read transcripts. Moreover, he has stated that if the House does not force the whistleblower to testify publicly, then any articles of impeachment will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
The level of cynicism and deceit in Graham’s cracks is sad to see. He knows full well that the testimony of the whistleblower is at this point literally superfluous: all of the allegations in the whistleblower complaint have long since been validated and indeed expanded upon by corroborating witnesses and the transcript itself.
Demanding such testimony is utterly disingenuous: Graham knows that the Democrats will never violate the spirit and law of the Whistleblower Act, and never force the whistleblower to testify.
But nothing – nothing – makes it more clear that the Republicans have already made up their minds than the very fact that Graham has announced that he will not listen to evidence.
Great debaters do not allow the opponent to define the essential issue of the debate. They attack the premise, and redefine it on terms that enable the audience to reframe the discussion.
In this case, Democrats should certainly continue to rebut each new software release, but do so through a larger perspective. Democrats must make the point that the Republicans have already decided that they will not vote to convict Donald Trump under any circumstances, and that they therefore are utterly failing in their role as jurors.
If a judge in an ordinary criminal case heard a juror say that he did not intend to listen to a word of evidence, then the judge would throw that individual out of the jury room.
There is only one thing that works against Release 13.0.
And that is for the Democrats to start calling Republican behavior for the crap that it is. Starting now.
It is time for all the Democrats who are not directly involved in these hearings to make the case: no matter what the evidence indicates, the Republicans are going to bluff, fake, hide, and obfuscate, all in an effort to rope-a-dope until the Senate actually takes a vote.
And the Democrats have to start making that the issue.
Have some fun with it, Dems.
Remember that person on Fifth Avenue that Trump was going to shoot with impunity?
Make the point that Lindsey Graham would turn his eyes away from that, too.
William Barr would say that, as President, it is Donald Trump’s right to shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.
Jim Jordan would say that the entire matter was a sham because all accounts of the shooting were from people who did not witness it first hand, and then Donald Trump would issue an order that anyone who did see it first hand were not allowed to testify.
Go at it, Democrats! You must begin making the case now that the Republicans have already decided that they intentionally hiding the truth and hiding from the truth.
That they are simply trying to run out the clock until they can finally take the vote in the Senate that will enable them to end the impeachment saga.
That they would not vote to impeach Donald Trump under any circumstances, ever.
Make fun of them.
Ask them to define what this president would have to do in order to get them to vote to impeach.
Go ahead… go on the floor of the House and read the entire list of Trump’s abuses of power, and finally ask them once and for all… if Barack Obama had done one single item on this list, wouldn’t Republicans have voted to impeach him instantly?
Call them hypocrites. Out loud.
Go on the offensive.
And hey, Lindsey Graham, you disgraceful coward, we're ready for your B.S., and we're gonna call you on it. Just try to sell your sniveling little soul hawking Release 13.0.
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